It’s not uncommon to experience periods of sadness in life, but what happens when that sadness lasts for weeks, months, or even years? What happens when that sadness becomes more than just a mood; when it starts affecting your day-to-day life? If you’re at the point where you’re asking yourself, Am I depressed? Do I have depression? then keep reading.
Situational vs. Clinical Depression
There is a difference between suffering from a short-term bout of depression and being afflicted with long-term, chronic depression. Both conditions are painful and emotionally draining, but are diagnosed and treated differently.
Situational depression is often triggered by traumatic changes in one’s life, for example, the death of a family member or friend, job loss, personal injury, or the end of a serious relationship. Situational depression generally manifests within 90-days of the trauma, and can last up to six months, with signs of depression including restlessness, feelings of hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and an inability to concentrate. This kind of depression is often treatable with lifestyle changes – exercise, healthy eating habits, and a solid support network – or with depression medications.
Clinical or major depression, however, may or may not be traceable back to a traumatic event, affects individuals for extended periods of time, and is difficult to treat without medical intervention.
Are You Clinically Depressed?
To be diagnosed with clinical depression or major depressive disorder, an individual must exhibit at least five of the criteria described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). While only a licensed professional can officially diagnose you with any form of depression, the criteria include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness and irritability, experienced daily
- Disinterest in activities or hobbies you once enjoyed
- Weight loss or gain
- Change in appetite
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or excessive sleeping
- Restlessness or listlessness
- Lack of energy; feeling unusually tired
- Feelings of worthlessness or uninitiated guilt
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Suicidal thoughts; thoughts about harming yourself or others
These depression symptoms are troubling, and should be discussed with a mental health professional who can then guide you towards the right kind of treatment for depression.
Should You Call A Doctor?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you should consider speaking with your primary care provider or mental health practitioner. The bottom line is that depression and other mental health disorders shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you do need medical intervention, it’s better to start your treatment for depression sooner than later.